Three Great Trails for Fly Fishing by Bike

Posted 07/17/15 by Russ Roca in Trail Use

Deschutes River Trail | Photo by Russ Roco

The idea of bicycling and fishing isn’t exactly new, but it’s probably something many of us haven’t done since childhood. With the renewed interest in bike touring and bikepacking in America, there is no better time to pack a lightweight fly rod and head out for a great fishing-biking adventure. Here are three trails, ranging from remote to urban, that pass through some awesome trout fisheries. And even if you don’t fish, you’ll still come away with a fantastic bike ride. It’s a win-win situation!

1Deschutes River Trail, Oregon

Deschutes River Trail | Photo courtesy Russ Roca

The Deschutes River Trail, from the confluence of the Deschutes and Columbia rivers, is a 12.5-mile natural-surface trail that excels in both scenery and fishing. The trail follows a dramatic canyon formed by the Deschutes River. You’ll pass large basalt cliffs, an abandoned box car and an old homestead at the end. There are several primitive campsites along the way if you want to make your trail experience into an overnight bikepacking and bikefishing adventure, or you can just pedal the route as an out-and-back and basecamp at Deschutes State Recreation Area. 

The Deschutes holds native redband rainbow trout as well as renowned runs of steelhead in the winter and summer, offering a variety of fish to target. In late spring and early summer, you may luck into the mythic salmonfly hatch, when 3-inch stoneflies emerge and turn the river into a feeding frenzy.

2John Wayne Pioneer Trail, Washington

Iron Horse Trail | Photo courtesy Russ Roca

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets. While the former rail corridor extends for about 253 miles, the first 100 miles (also known as the Iron Horse Linear State Park) are the most maintained and navigable. The trail begins in North Bend (outside of Seattle) and continues east through the impressive 2.5-mile Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel (bring a good light!). There are a few hiker/biker campsites directly off the trail that feel beautifully remote, making the trail ideal for bike touring and bikepacking adventures. Camping is also available at Lake Easton State Park and Lake Kachess.

The surface is composed of fairly compact crushed rock, with a few deep gravel sections. After Snoqualmie Pass and into Ellensburg, the trail parallels and crisscrosses the Yakima River, known for its rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing. Although the Yakima is the main fishery along the trail, there is a web of forest service roads for the more adventurous that follow tributaries not too far from the trail. A 4wt or tenkara rod are ideal for fishing these waters. You could literally spend years exploring the Yakima and its tributaries and barely scratch the surface!

3Trout Run Trail, Iowa

Trout Run Trail | Photo courtesy Russ Roca

The Trout Run Trail is located in the northeastern corner of Iowa and circumnavigates the small but cosmopolitan town of Decorah. This section of Iowa is part of the Midwest’s Driftless Area, which is known for its unique karst topography of limestone bluffs and rock structures. Trout Run is a family-friendly, 11-mile paved trail that incorporates a few hills to keep it interesting. Beginning just a few blocks from downtown, you pass a rock quarry and an idyllic stretch of the upper Iowa River. 

The trail is bicycling and fishing at its best!  There are obvious river access points, where the tall grasses have been cleared for your backcast! To access the prime spots, it does pay to pack some waders and boots or water sandals. (A locally printed map shows the best fishing spots along the trail.) The river is not wide and is fishable with lightweight tackle (it is ideal for tenkara-style fly fishing). 

When you’re done fishing, you can complete the loop (be sure to wave to the resident bald eagles) and pedal up switchbacks that traverse a few farms, until you return downtown for a cold beer after a long day of catching trout.

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